Discipling takes too long.
I dreamed of the men in my church getting together, prayerfully discovering the spiritual disciplines, parsing theological truths, pushing each other to memorize scriptures and thinking of all the nuances of the text. I thought “After the membership class, after the evangelism training, and after figuring out our purpose, I could literally take the next 50 years to train our people in every scripture of the Bible – we will never run out of material!”
But after about week 3, the 25 men had somehow become 6, and midway through the 29 weekly classes on “Discipleship Made Easy” there were only three of us – discouragement reigned.
What if discipleship is something else?
Early in my ministry, a dear friend of mine worked for Ford Motor Company. He told me how Ford had instituted ‘Just In Time’ delivery. I was clueless about big Industry – or little industry for that matter. But here’s what I learned: the ‘Just In Time’ system, rather than keeping stock in storage (fenders, tires, instrument panels and radios etc.) involves receiving goods from suppliers as needed. No more warehouses full of parts (tying up millions of dollars) instead, the parts go from manufacture plant to assembly line without waiting in a warehouse. This idea revolutionized the auto industries – less waste and more production!
What if discipleship followed this method? What if discipleship was described as establishing a ‘Just In Time’ delivery system for God’s grace and instruction? What if discipleship meant helping people regularly interact with Jesus, learning as they go?What if discipleship meant helping people regularly interact with Jesus, learning as they go? Click To Tweet
In other words, what if we could help our people disciple themselves? Rather than establishing a “program”, what if we downloaded a simple framework upon which the entirety of one’s “discipling life” would hang? What if our people had confidence in reading the Scriptures in a way they could understand them – and even know what to do because of what they read? And what if this was natural, doable and life transforming?
The people in my church face situations that require them to move often. So, we’ve wrestled with this question: “How can we establish someone in the faith and give them all the tools necessary to grow in Jesus, in a short period of time?” This sounds impossible, but it’s not. Below are 3 growth components and 2 character traits that if implemented, will establish any Christ follower in the faith; enough for supporting their growth from now until eternity!
If you are a growing Christ follower – you’ll no doubt recognize this path!
- Pray “…pray continually…” 1 Thessalonians 5:17
Communication is key to any relationship, so teach prayer. Prayer really isn’t that hard, is it? It’s talking with Jesus. It’s listening for his response. Of course, it’s more than asking for stuff, yet at the same time, it IS asking for stuff too!
If you only have ONE session to disciple someone, begin here. Pray out loud in front of them. Explain that it is important to communicate regularly with those you love, including Jesus. Lead them in a sample prayer, helping them understand the kind of things to pray about.
If you have multiple sessions, then by all means, unpack prayer more fully! Walk your friend through the Lord’s prayer. Help them understand biblical trust. Remind them of the fruit of the Spirit, and help them pray about that. You can go on and on – if you want. But the most important teaching here, is to pray.
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
The Bible is alive. Our reading of it, should be like breathing – not a big gulp here and there, but regular and systematic. If our reading is only for “maybe someday this will come in handy” – we are unlikely to be regular. Other, more time sensitive issues will grab our attention. But if we approach the Word as critical for today, then reading it is like drinking from a fresh stream while hiking up a mountain!
There are many great “methods” for interacting with scripture. Find one that is simple. Our favorite is SOAP.
S – Scripture. Read something from the Bible. If journaling, write the verse that stands out most to you.
O – Observe. What else is happening (context). What else does Jesus bring to mind?
A – Apply. What should I do based on what I just read? How can I love God better? How can I love my neighbor better?
P – Pray. Pray about what what I read, and what God’s Holy Spirit is communicating to me.
(For non-readers/illiterate members, make available electronic versions of the Bible, where they can “hear” it read to them.)
And this is the perfect time to bring up character trait A: SURRENDER
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7
Prayer and Bible reading only bring about growth for those who surrender. This is a life long quest: learning to surrender to God’s voice through prayer and scripture. Emphasis on this character trait is critical, if one expects growth.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25
Biblical community is powerful, life giving, life changing, and necessary for growth. None of us will grow to maturity in a vacuum. We desperately need the influence of others. We need models to follow, people to pray with and pray for, and the natural accountability when others are present. We will not grow alone.
Your friend must participate in Christian community to grow. As they read scripture and interact with others, they’ll begin to carry each other’s burdens, pray for each other, encourage one another and serve too.
When Jesus told us to “love your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and your neighbor as yourself” he set us on a lifelong quest for relational strength with every person we come in contact with. Clearly, the Bible instructs our development in any relationship.
Training our new disciple to lean towards relational health makes us all better!
This is where we emphasize character trait B: HUMILITY
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…” Philippians 2:3-5
Every relationship is enhanced when we practice humility. Every relationship is hindered when we don’t. The enemy tells us we don’t need to change. He tells us that humility means we are weak. But Jesus flips everything upside down and says the last shall be first, and the weak are made strong and the greatest are really those who serve. Humility is key to growing like Jesus.
Prayer, Bible, Surrender, Community and Humility go far in making disciples. But without the Holy Spirit’s infiltration, we are hopeless. Simple disciple making must include the activity of the Holy Spirit as normative and expected.
We all win when we cry out for the Holy Spirit’s leadership in our lives.
Discipling does take a life time. But as the “discipler”, initiating the ‘process’ requires only a few minutes. Click To Tweet
“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” John 14:26
Discipling does take a life time. But as the “discipler”, initiating the ‘process’ requires only a few minutes. Anything beyond that, is icing on the cake! Remember, the Holy Spirit also desires that we all grow, and once we have the basic “tools”, our God does the heavy lifting!
“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6